clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Protesters Filing First Wave of Police Brutality Lawsuits Against NYPD

Alex Fermin holds a shirt he says an NYPD officer tore off his body while arresting him on the Upper East Side during a protest after the death of George Floyd.
Alex Fermin holds a shirt he says an NYPD officer tore off his body while arresting him on the Upper East Side during a June 2 protest.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

When police burst into a crowd of protestors to make arrests, Mia Boday ran from her safe spot on the sidewalk to aid marchers who got knocked down by the officers in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Boday said when she got to the middle of Fifth Avenue, a cop swung her baton into the 23-year-old artist’s throat.

“I was just so shocked,” Boday said, recalling the June 2 incident, which happened at 8:30 p.m. as cops were enforcing the curfew ordered by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I had never been assaulted with a weapon before. I was really stunned by how much it hurt.”

Mia Boday planned to sue the NYPD after she says police beat her during a protest over the death of George Floyd.
Mia Boday plans to sue the NYPD after, she says, police beat her during a protest over the death of George Floyd.
Photo Courtesy of Leo Glickman.

Boday, her boyfriend, and another marcher, have all filed paperwork indicating their intention to sue the city and the NYPD. They allege they were beaten and arrested for peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

So far, 18 notices of claim, the first step in filing a suit against the New York City, have been lodged with the city Comptroller’s Office alleging police abuses at the rallies, according to records obtained by THE CITY. Dozens more are expected to be submitted in the coming days.

“We will assess the merits of these claims once the legal actions have been filed,” said Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell, a NYPD spokesperson, referring to the claims of police brutality outside the museum.

Boday, of Woodside, Queens, said the initial baton whack knocked her to the ground. Another officer then began to hit, according to Boday. The beating stopped, she said, when a third cop came, ordered her to roll over onto her stomach and put her hands behind her back.

“I was just very confused,” Boday said. “They didn’t tell me why they were doing it. There was no reasoning behind it.”

‘I Screamed Over and Over’

Her boyfriend, Elliot Cronin, 26, was also arrested as police stormed the crowd. The couple, who are both white, had joined hundreds of protesters who began their march at Bryant Park.

The duo said they stayed at the back of the march to protect black protesters from police who were trailing the crowd.

A video of the incident shows the chaos began when an officer ran a few levels deep into throng to force political science student Alex Fermin to the ground.

Fermin, 22, believes he upset the officers when he cursed at them for trailing the group in riot gear.

One cop urged the protesters to go home because the 8 p.m. curfew had passed, according to Fermin.

“I said, ‘F--- your curfew, you fascist pig!” Fermin recalled, noting he then moved a few rows into the crowd.

“I was looking back every 10 seconds or so,” he said. “Before I knew it, the next thing I felt was the force of the officer on my shoulder.”

The unnamed cop slammed him to the ground, tearing off his black t-shirt in the process. In a flash, several other cops piled onto Fermin, video shows.

Posted by Mia Boday on Wednesday, June 3, 2020

“That was a really scary moment,” Fermin said. “I couldn’t move. At first I was laying on my back and then they flipped me over.”

He recalled thinking of the video of Minneapolis cops holding down Floyd while Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd repeatedly begged Chauvin to stop before he died.

Fermin began to panic.

“I screamed over and over again,” he said. “I almost didn’t recognize my voice. It sounded like a squeal.”

As they put his hands in zip ties, the lead officer joked how Fermin now sounded different while he was on the ground being arrested, Fermin said.

Inspired by Trump Photo-Op

Fermin, Boday and Cronin were all taken to the 19th Precinct on East 67th Street, where they were kept in a holding cell and released about an hour later. They all contend they were never read their Miranda Rights or given an explanation for their arrest, and that all of the cops were maskless.

Fermin was charged with disorderly conduct for using harassing language.

Leo Glickman, his civil attorney, says that courts have repeatedly ruled that protesters are allowed, under the First Amendment, to yell rude things at police during rallies.

“He got charged with using words,” said Glickman, who is also representing Boday and Cronin. “He wasn’t pushing people around. Those words are constitutionally protected.”

Boday, who has multiple visible bruises on her torso, and Cronin were charged with obstruction of traffic and obstructing governmental administration.

Boday said she was so sore afterwards she thought she might have broken ribs.

“It was hard to swallow,” she said. “I didn’t have anything broken, splintered or displaced. I was really lucky. Maybe it’s because I drink a lot of milk.”

She said she joined demonstrators after seeing footage of law enforcement clear out Lafayette Square near the White House with tear gas and stun grenades for President Donald Trump’s photo op with a bible in front of St. John’s church.

“I was planning on going to a protest anyways, but that really got me out there,” she said. “It was the first time I went on the 7 train in months.”

She can’t understand why de Blasio said he believed the police were mostly acting reasonably.

“I’m disgusted with the way the mayor has addressed the situation,” she said. “It’s his duty, and his job to know what’s happening to his people. It’s just showing that he’s ignoring what’s happening under him.”

The police used the curfew as an excuse to attack peaceful protestors, Boday and Fermin said.

“I think that it’s reprehensible to use a curfew to criminalize protests to protect capital,” said Fermin. “They knew there’s no way of avoiding people protesting.”

SUPPORT LOCAL NEWS. SUPPORT NEW YORK.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York. Please consider joining us as a member today.

GOT A TIP?

We’re here to listen. Email tips@thecity.nyc or visit our tips page for other ways to share.

Sign up for the newsletter Get THE CITY Scoop

Sign up and get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning